Monday, 20 April 2009

Not Pastoral = Academic?

I am visiting this issue once again. I have heard many students in the seminary echoing the sentiment that we are not pastoral enough, hence we are too academic.

If I were to put this in a mathematical equation, it would look like this:

Not pastoral = too academic.

But is this an accurate picture?

Now, that brings me to consider what is "academic".

How would one rate an institution that is considered "academic"? My criteria would include at least the following:

  1. active academic publication of international repute and recognition
  2. cutting-edge and groundbreaking research in one's field of expertise
  3. staying updated on the current scholarship in one's field of expertise
  4. presenting papers of one's current rersearch in international conferences
  5. well-equipped library including access to online database
and I could go on with the list.

So, let's be honest - are we anywhere near being "academic"? Is it right to say that just because some feel that we are not "pastoral" enough, therefore, we should be labeled as "too academic"? Or is there a deeper issue?

Just thinking aloud....

14 comments:

Israel Lee said...

Perhaps they are thinking along this equation.

not pastoral = not practical = too academic

不肖生 Sceptics said...

I agree with KY 's criteria for "too academic"...

KY able to spell this out, proves that KY indeed,is "too academic"...hehe

不肖生 Sceptics said...

why they say stm too academic, since the syllabus contains, academic and practical theology subjects?

are they saying that, the practical theology subject are also, too academic, and not practical?

Paul Long said...

I may be a bit off here but ...

I think students need to ask themselves why they enrolled in a particular seminary programme in the first place.

I think for example that there is supposed to be a big difference between an M.Div and a M.Th or a M.Min. So choose wisely :-)

But the bottom line is that there are always some subjects (academic?) that are foundational and have to be studied and mastered (if possible)

I think that seminaries need to focus on training pastors that are theologically sound (we need academics here) and not try to make pastors into develop "scholars" (unless this is the specific track they are pursuing).

From hindsight I have found that a lot of academic stuff (which I wold prefer to call theological cum philosophical stuff) has now become more important in many areas of pastoral and outreach ministry.

So my apologies to some lecturers (like Rev Tan Jin Huat!) for my occasional outbursts (so very long ago) when I got frustrated with the academics as I could not see its fuller relevance to pastoral ministry. :-)

Just stretching my 2 cents ...

Sze Zeng said...

Hi KY, it is too simplistic for seminarians to think that academic and pastoral ministry can be separated.

Barth's commentary on Romans was written when he was a pastor to a small congregation during the war time.

I think in our local context, we don't have the tradition of having well-informed pastors in churches. In the West, many congregation encourage pastors to pursue phD.

This shows a lot about both different communities at their root level. To the West, they look up to learning and learning, even if it means learn until one dies. And that extend into formal education.

Over here, it's...well... I can just sigh.

:)

Kar Yong said...

Hi Israel,
Perhaps this is also true - but I guess what I heard is not really about not being practical - but that pastoral care is not extended.

Kar Yong said...

Hi 不肖生 Sceptics,

Haha - I would rather be known as "too academic" rather than to be known as both "not pastoral" and "not academic".

Perhaps students feel that we lecturers don't care too much about them...

Kar Yong said...

Hi Sze Zeng,
I echo what you say - even in seminary, someone remarked some months ago, 'Why are you writing books? Go and do some ministry."

Since when has writing a book not considered as ministry? Or is ministry now narrowly defined as related to "non academic" matters? I can only scratch my head. I too, can only sigh.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - and I am sure Jin would have loved to hear that from you!

I think agree with you that we need to balance practical ministry and academic input. You can't have one without the other.

不肖生 Sceptics said...

Barth did poorly in his pastoral ministry, in a village church...nobody understood him,,,hehe,,

this is blessing in diguise, he then did so well in seminary...

不肖生 Sceptics said...

In the west, traditionally,historically; christianity,high culture, civilisation, go hand in hand....thats why pastoral staff with phd's seem quite common...

In asia, ppl already have for centuries indigenous high culture, civilization, philosophy and etc, and Prostantism came in from grassroots level, working its way up... so , pastoral staff with little academic exposure, become quite reasonable....

For confucian culture, religious operators supposed to be un-informed academically,,,,in contrast to confucian mandarins...

hehe..

Kar Yong said...

不肖生 Sceptics,

Agreed with you that the seminary curriculum comprises both formal and informal education learning. And I suspect most of us learn thorugh the informal or hidden curriculum. As a student, it was the time that my professors spent with me, having a cuppa, that meant most to me. As such, I strive to spend as much time with students as possible. But, in reality....that remains a wish...a dream...

Israel Lee said...

Agreed, most of our learning occurs informally. The mundane interactions over a cup of coffee stir our interest to find out more which often meant a journey to the library or Google.

Kar Yong said...

Yes, Israel...it's so true. I can't remember much of what my profs taught me in the classroom.